Poland’s bishops recently commemorated the 80th anniversary of the outbreak of the Second World War with their German counterparts. Their shared message was a chance to evoke the heroic legacy of the Polish Church’s past struggles for democracy and human rights.
Today, some Poles fear that legacy is being tarnished, as new scandals and controversies threaten the Church’s authority. Yet others insist the Church will weather the latest storms and may well emerge, in a distinctively Polish paradox, stronger and more self-assured than ever.
In the three decades since communist rule ended, the Polish Church has faced numerous assaults on its public role, on issues from abortion and school religion to accusations of financial misconduct and secret-police infiltration.
Charges had long been levelled that it had also failed to act against sexual abuse by its priests, concealing and ignoring flagrant criminality. These exploded into the open a year ago when a graphic anti-clerical drama, Kler (“Clergy”), broke cinema box-office records.